x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Tunisia is first stop on longer tour

The relationship between leaders and popular consent is being contested

History books abound with accounts of revolutions across the Arab world, although none can be described as truly popular, says Abdulrahman al Rashed in the London-based daily Asharq Al Awsat. None until the Tunisian uprising that is.

Following the toppling of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's regime, many military regimes find themselves haunted by the Tunisian example, for they are similar to that of Tunisia: they are the outcome of coups or inherited coups. The Tunisian regime was founded on the prevention of insurgencies. However, the Tunisian revolution proved that such a regime could be broken.

"Ben Ali was a security professional, but he wasn't a good politician. He didn't know how to defend his decisions and actions, which made him an easy target for the opposition". All regimes, including revolutionary ones, are aware of the importance of legitimate rule for their survival. But militant regimes realise that their legitimacy is absent and for that reason, they rely on force.

No regime can succeed without popular consent; it is for that reason that some Arab regimes have survived for more than 50 years while others collapsed with the first breeze.

In less than a month, Tunisians managed to overthrow one of the most powerful Arab leaders, which calls for analysis and review. Why did he fall within days despite his capabilities in a relatively small country?

Hariri's retreat could be a solution

As soon as the opposition ministers announced their resignation from Lebanon's cabinet, talk of about naming someone other than Saad Hariri to head it began, observes columnist Daoud al Sharyan in the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat.

The new Prime Minister, it was said should agree to retract the government's cooperation with the special international tribunal, stop its funding and recall its Lebanese judges. Such wishful rhetoric implies a belief that Lebanon could in any way take internal measures to disable the tribunal.

"It could be argued that the exclusion of Mr Hariri as PM could benefit the majority position; as the 8 March coalition aims to disable the cabinet, throw the country into a political vacuum, and thus impede any procedures when the tribunal's indictments are issued."

If Mr Hariri were to refrain from offering his candidacy for prime minister now, he would deny the opposition their "immobilisation plans", especially that any Hariri-led cabinet would surely meet the same fate. In any other case, should he insist of remaining at the head of the cabinet, Mr Hariri would become an accomplice in the incapacitation that the opposition forces are using to ward off the tribunal.

Away from the cabinet, and free from the many restrictions of political sensitivities, Mr Hariri would have more room for manoeuvre and can rectify his late father's mistake of reducing Sunni representation to the person of one man.

Hizbollah's Catch 22 should alarm region

Israel is reassured; the current Lebanese crisis will remain internal and won't escalate into a military confrontation at the northern border of occupied Palestine.

If Israel is reassured then we should be alarmed, says Saad Mehio in his column for the Emirati daily Al Khaleej. Why? Simply because it wagers on an alternative for a second round for the 2006 war; an internal Lebanese war that could be more fatal to Hizbollah, harming its reputation as the legitimate resistance, drowning the nation in destructive sectarian conflict.

The party's secretary-general Sayed Hassan Nasrallah strictly dismisses this last option, but Tel Aviv won't take no for an answer. As the scenario of another direct war on Lebanon is unlikely, Tel Aviv will spare no efforts to re-ignite a Lebanese fire.

In fact, Hizbollah is in a catch 22. Although it holds the most power in the political equation, it cannot use its power to settle matters since it is adamant in avoiding civil strife.

The party wants to write off the international tribunal, but, to do so, it has to take power by constitutional channels or by force. But such a takeover would be a treacherous leap into the abyss. Israel has meticulously deepened Hizbollah's problem through its network of spies that helped wreak havoc across the country.

Sectarian parties are advised to turn their gaze southward to anticipate enemy movement, or at least take note of an Israel so reassured.

Keep Hamas away from direct talks

During an interview with Qatari news channel Al Jazeera upon his last visit to Doha, the Turkish prime minister Recep Tayeb Erdogan stressed the importance of involving Hamas directly in peace talks with Israel, says the London-based newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi in its editorial.

Mr Erdogan's view is that Hamas won the majority of parliamentary seats in the elections, and now represent the largest section of the Palestinians and should have a role to play in deciding their future. "We agree with Mr Erdogan on all of the above, except for his invitation to involve Hamas in the negotiations," says the daily. For Hamas' leadership sees negotiation as futile. Any participation on their part would be in sharp contrast with their principles.

"We don't think Hamas has a magic wand that could overturn the course of negotiations with Israel and achieve what the Palestinian Authority, backed by the US and the Arab and Western worlds, failed to achieve."

Conflicts always end in negotiations. But in the Palestinian case, the situation is not ripe for a settlement under this extremist Israeli government. Hamas are required at this point to compete with the Palestinian Authority in holding on to their principles and perpetuating resistance, and not in representing the Palestinian people in futile talks, concludes the paper.

* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem